Dr Samuel Choudhury offers grim warning to Australians about hookworm
A doctor has revealed why you should never sit on the mat on the beach without a towel.
Dr. Samuel Choudhury, a GP from Singapore, explained that lying – or walking barefoot – in the sand can cause hookworms to burrow into people’s skin.
This causes a condition called Cutaneous Larva Migrans.
Dr. Samuel told the story of a 17-year-old boy whose foot became infested with parasitic worms on a mission trip after his friends buried him in the sand during a game.
Michael Dumas, from Memphis, Tennessee, was traveling with friends in Florida in June 2018 where they took a break to have some fun at Pompano Beach.
Days later, bumps appeared on his leg and gaping wounds on his right foot.
Scroll down for video
Dr. Samuel Choudhury, a GP from Singapore, explained that lying – or walking barefoot – in the sand can cause hookworms to burrow into people’s skin, causing a condition called Cutaneous Larva Migrans. Dr. Samuel told the story of a 17-year-old boy whose foot became infested with parasitic worms on a mission trip after his friends buried him in the sand during a game. Michael Dumas, from Memphis, Tennessee, was traveling with friends in Florida in June 2018, where they took a break to have some fun at Pompano Beach (pictured)
Days later, bumps appeared on his leg and gaping wounds had encased his right foot (pictured)
“This isn’t your normal human hookworm,” Dr. Samuel said.
“This hookworm belongs to dogs.”
He explained that dogs transmit the parasite to sand when they defecate on sand.
“Because this is dog hookworm, humans are not suitable hosts.
“The worm does not migrate to our intestines, but remains in the skin for a buffet.”
He said that Michael was covered in stains because he was completely submerged in the sand.
Michael’s mother, Kelli, rushed him to the emergency room where doctors told her he had had several parasites known as hookworms living under the skin of his foot.
His mother Kelli told it Fox 13 Memphis that her son complained of fatigue and ear pain during the last few days of their trip and when they returned home.
Soon after, an itchy rash appeared on his right thigh, followed by gaping wounds all over his feet.
Dr. Samuel (pictured) explained that dogs transfer the parasite to sand when they defecate on sand
An emergency room visit revealed that Michael was infected with parasites called hookworms.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Samuel explained: ‘A study conducted in Australia (published in 2022) showed that approximately 10 per cent of dog stool samples obtained from dog parks across Australia contained hookworms.
‘This means that bare skin exposure in these areas could also potentially cause cutaneous larva migrans.
Although medication is available for effective treatment, the diagnosis of cutaneous larva migrans may not be easy to make at the onset of the disease. Patients may experience intense itching or pain for several weeks before they are diagnosed. Therefore, prevention is better than cure.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Samuel explained: ‘Research conducted in Australia (to be published in 2022) showed that approximately 10 per cent of dog feces samples obtained from dog parks across Australia contained hookworms’. Kelli’s foot is pictured
“It can take as little as 30 minutes for the hookworm to lodge in your skin and cause an infection.” No open wounds are needed for this.
“While I don’t enjoy getting rain on people’s beach vacations, it’s imperative to minimize bare skin exposure to sand where possible on beaches and parks.
“Use a mat and wear footwear and avoid picking up or handling animal feces with bare hands.
What Are Hookworms?
A hookworm is an intestinal parasite of humans.
The larvae and adult worms that live in the small intestine can cause intestinal disorders.
The two main types of hookworms that infect humans are Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus.
Hookworm eggs are excreted in the stool of an infected person.
However, if a hookworm from another animal is passed on to a human, they will burrow into their skin and cause a painful rash.
Dr. Samuel told FEMAIL: ‘Cutaneous Larva Migrans is one of the most common tropically acquired skin conditions in the world.
“Most people who don’t live in tropical countries often get it when they go on an exotic vacation in the tropics and hit the beach.
‘Hookworms are more common in tropical countries/conditions because they like heat and humidity.
‘They can also survive for months to years if there is a favorable environment. Although the beach is a common place to get hookworms, they can be found in other places as well.’
“It’s important to note that while dogs are a common source, hookworms also occur in cats,” he added.
According to the CDC, someone with a mild infection may not have any symptoms. But a serious infection causes symptoms such as a localized rash, fatigue, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
“As she was using the liquid nitrogen, he could feel the worms moving in his body,” Dumas told Fox 13.
She added that he currently cannot wear shoes and has to soak the contaminated area in bleach every day.
Dr. John Sullivan told FEMAIL it can occur in Australia but is less likely, especially in southern states.
Australian beaches are generally a lower risk, especially in the southern states.
“Most cases seen in Australia continue to occur in travelers returning from OS holidays in Asia, including Bali, Thailand and our Pacific neighbours,” he added.
‘This risk does exist in more tropical (and subtropical) areas, such as Queensland, the Northern Territory and North Western Australia.
‘It’s really unusual for people in the south of Australia to pick up their holiday and beach recreation.
“Children who use sandboxes where there are strays are at greater risk, as are many occupations such as farming and gardening)
“It’s due to infected cats and dogs and sometimes other animals contaminating areas with their feces.
‘Where pets are dewormed and cared for, this is not a risk, but in areas where animals roam and especially stray and uncared for cats, dogs and dingoes, the risk increases.
‘Precautions are prudent in Northern Australia, especially if the area has stray cats, dogs and dingoes.
‘Despite this risk in northern Australia, it remains uncommon after beach holidays compared to the incidence in travelers returning from beach holidays in Asia and the Pacific.
‘In the wet tropical north, dogs and dingoes in particular are frequently infested with this hookworm, making precautions worth taking in areas where they frequent!
‘It’s where the dogs and dingoes spend more time in greater numbers where the risk is (e.g. waste disposal areas are at greater risk).
‘Infection occurs on skin areas that have been in contact with the sand and soil, including the buttocks after someone has been sitting under a tree in sandy soil areas where these animals have defecated.
“Feet remain the most affected area after walking barefoot in affected areas.
‘I would enjoy beaches in the south of Australia without taking extra precautions. Risks remain higher for UV-related damage and skin cancer! These precautions remain the most important, along with safety in the surf.
“In most resort areas, municipalities (and resorts) monitor stray dogs and dingoes and get people to clean up after their dogs.
‘So it is safe to enjoy the beaches of Coolangatta, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coasts. But if there are telltale signs of animals defecating, I’d settle in a different area.
“However, I would be cautious if there are known dog and dingo problems, such as Fraser Island and parts of the Far and Tropical North.”
‘I would keep my shoes or flip flops on when walking in these areas, it’s important not to sit directly on the ground. Thick towels or mats, picnic rugs would be appropriate’.